THE national cricket boards of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have structured similar financial arrangements between themselves and their players, in which the national team and all first-class cricketers are guaranteed a share of the gross revenue generated by the game.
England have a modified system, which primarily benefits international cricketers.
It is a system designed to empower the players and make them responsible for playing an active part in the overall success of the game. A vested interest, after all, is more of an incentive to care than a passing interest.
In South Africa the percentage of Cricket SA’s (CSA’s) gross revenue that comes the way of the players is a little under 20%. If India’s tour of South Africa at the end of 2013 is severely curtailed, as it now has to be if it is not cancelled altogether, the likely loss of revenue to CSA will be in the region of R200m.
Twenty percent of that is R40m, of which 40% goes directly to the domestic players in the six franchises, a sum of about R2.7m. Each franchise has a contracted squad of about 17 players, which breaks down to an average of R160,000 per player.
We’re talking bread-and-butter professionals, the base of the professional playing pyramid. Some players have a base salary of R160,000.
Much of the talk at the recent CEOs meeting at CSA was about the urgent need for drastic austerity measures as a result of the India tour crisis. The first costs to be cut, inevitably, will be those deemed nonessential to the running of first-class and international cricket. Development of the game will stall and the ideologies of the recent Transformation Indaba will remain merely dreams.
Most cricket-loving South Africans cannot imagine the consequences of the 2013 tour being reduced to a bare minimum of two Tests and three one-day internationals. Most readers of this newspaper would struggle to comprehend how reliant CSA has become on India for its survival. But one question that will undoubtedly occur to all of you is this: "Why did CSA allow itself to become so reliant on one other nation?"
The answer is simple if not straightforward. Every other cricket-playing nation in the world is in the same position.
Not merely the other nine Test-playing countries, but every cricket-playing nation, from the serious ones such as Ireland, Afghanistan and Holland to the fun ones such as Vanuatu and Denmark.
England and Australia are just as reliant on India as South Africa is, and the unedifying speed with which they moved to fill their schedules with Indian matches for the next five years would suggest that the only possible way to stand up to the megalomaniacal power of the Board of Control for Cricket in India is a nonstarter — solidarity.
What a splendid thought that Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board might stand alongside (or even behind) CSA and suggest to their Indian counterparts that a promise is a promise. But there is more chance of the head curator at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium preparing a green seamer for Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test than CSA receiving anything more than token, passive and unofficial sympathy.
A couple of readers asked me whether I could write about something more cheerful this week. They said my last couple of columns had been a bit gloomy, although they conceded that there isn’t much point in massaging the truth.
So here goes. Did you know that the first, officially patented "abdominal protector" (box) was launched in 1874? And did you know that the first batting helmet was invented and used a hundred years later, in 1974? What does this tell us? It is undisputable proof that cricketers are more guided by the wellbeing of their little head than their big one.
It might put a smile on your face but, unfortunately, it doesn’t change the fact that South Africa cricket is facing a vast crisis.